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“Orry” play spills gay secrets of classic Hollywood, but focuses on matters of the heart

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Nick Hardcastle as Orry-Kelly, pictured with
Mitzi Gaynor costume from “Les Girls” for
which Orry-Kelly won an Academy Award.
Costume courtesy of Greg Schriener.
Photo by Tony Duran.

Orry-Kelly is an enigmatic name. It reveals nothing about the man who held it, but it carries a hint of mystery that makes you want to know more.

As even the most casual fans of classic Hollywood can probably tell you, Kelly was a costume designer that dressed Hollywood’s biggest stars and costumed some of its most iconic movies; some of them might also be able to tell you he capped off his career with three Oscar wins out of four nominations.

Beyond that, though, they’d likely be hard pressed to tell you more. In the decades since his death, only industry insiders and people who knew him personally had much information about Kelly’s private life outside of the essential biographical details and, perhaps, a few salacious tidbits of gossip. That changed when a relative found the manuscript of his memoir in a pillowcase that had gone untouched for 50 years; titled “Women I’ve Undressed,” it was published in 2015, at long last revealing his story to the world as only he himself could tell it.

Now that story is about to hit the stage, as writer/performer Nick Hardcastle debuts his new play, simply titled “Orry,” at the Lee Strasberg Theatre in West Hollywood. It’s a theatrical distillation of the memoir in which the iconic designer returns to celebrate his own fabulous life on the occasion of his funeral, and for Hardcastle, it’s been a labor of love.

He, like Kelly, is an Australian who came to America to pursue an entertainment career; they each found success before coming to Hollywood, Kelly in New York and Hardcastle in his native country.

“The more I get to know him, the more I relate,” says Hardcastle.  “I’m from a tiny little coastal town in New South Wales, just like him, and I couldn’t wait to get out of my small town, either.”

He’s come a long way. Beginning as a host for a popular music video program in his homeland, he parlayed that into a multi-faceted career in which he’s piled up countless credits as a TV host – alongside dozens for film, TV, theatre and musical theatre acting. He’s also the co-founder of the Australian Theatre Company, which, like many of the other platforms from which he works, aims to promote cultural exchange between Australia and the US. He’s been in Los Angeles for the last seven years.

“I’d always been aware of Orry-Kelly, since I lived in Hollywood,” he says. “I don’t know that I knew who he was before I moved here, but Orry has always been mentioned as an Australian pioneer in the film industry.”

Still it wasn’t until he saw a documentary about Kelly – “Women He’s Undressed,” by another Australian, Gillian Armstrong – that he was inspired to create his own show about him.

“This seemed like the perfect story,” he gushes, “this Australian who came over to New York in the twenties, who had a Broadway career before coming to Hollywood and creating an incredible legacy. After watching the film, I was so compelled by his story that I called the publisher of the memoir the next day and asked, ‘Who has the theatrical rights to this book?’ I was fortunate enough that I was the first person to make that call.”

In developing the script, he worked closely with his director, Wayne Harrison, who was also his dramaturg. Hardcastle himself portrays Kelly – “He’s a fascinating character,” he says, “and he’s deeply flawed, which is great for me!”— with only two other performers to fill in other roles around him.

“It’s an intimate show, but it’s really quite a big show,” he stresses. “We do it all in as entertaining a way as possible. Orry was a showman, an artist and a performer – we’ve tried to incorporate music and film, and puppetry and song, all the things that speak to what his life was, so even though it is fairly intimate, hopefully it doesn’t feel small.”

Nick Hardcastle as Orry-Kelly. Photo by Tony Duran.

As for the story itself, one of the biggest challenges was deciding what to include. The dense memoir contains anecdotes and reminiscences from a man who had a personal and/or a working relationship with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and audiences were sure to be interested in hearing about that – but Hardcastle opted for a different focus.

“There’s too much to cover in all that material that’s just not necessarily dramatic,” he says. “Orry lived such a full, and rich, and layered life – but when you want to see a whole life story onstage in 90 minutes, you need to find a narrative that audiences can connect to. It was really about the ‘heart connection,’ so that we really care, at the end, what he’s gone through.”

“We had to isolate some things. We thought that his identity, and love, were the things that were going to connect the audience to his story. There was one relationship in particular that was very important, someone that was in his life for a really long time. That’s the relationship that we hone in on in the show, and, of course it was with Archie Leach.”

Leach is better known, of course, by his professional name – Cary Grant – and the true nature of his long-term “friendship” with former roommate and fellow heartthrob Randolph Scott has already long been debated. Less well-known, however, is that he and Kelly, who were roommates in New York before coming to Hollywood, had an on-and-off-again love affair that lasted into the mid-thirties – at least, according to Kelly.

“He’s my source material, the memoir is what I’m drawing from, but it’s not my comment on Cary Grant, at all,” Hardcastle is quick to point out.

“Having said that,” he adds, “it’s still a comment on the system at the time – and let’s face it, that system still exists today.”

“Orry went through the twenties in New York, where it was like a sort of Babylon,” Hardcastle explains, “Then he came to Hollywood where at first it was ‘anything goes,’ and then the Hays Code comes in – suddenly everybody has gone into hiding, and the studio is in control of your life. They change your name, change your identity, marry you off and move you three doors down the street from your lover, they give you drugs to keep you up and keep you down – it was just horrific, and I don’t think Orry ever wanted to be complicit in that way of life.”

“He was not a ‘yes man.’ He was unapologetically honest, and I think that put a lot of people off.”

Kelly’s distaste for the Hollywood closet was likely inconvenient for the power players in the film industry, and Hardcastle acknowledges that might be part of the reason his private life stayed buried for so long – a wrong he’s proud to help right.

“I feel like I’m the custodian of his story, and that’s a huge privilege and responsibility, and I just can’t wait to share it with everyone.”

“Orry” runs Nov 2-11 at Lee Strasberg Theatre in West Hollywood. For tickets and more information call 855-326-9945 or visit www.Gentleman-George.com.

 

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Events

Pansexual Visibility Day 2022 is May 24

Days like Pansexuality Visibility Day are perfect for educating people about the various ways people experience sexual & romantic attraction

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Graphic via Project MORE

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project is honoring Pansexual and Panromantic Awareness and Visibility Day on May 24, noting that it is a day to celebrate the pansexual and panromantic community and educate others on the community.

As part of creating awareness for the pansexual community, The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, captured important data related to the experiences of pansexual youth, who made up 20% of the survey sample.

2022 National Survey Data on Pansexual Youth

  • 53% of pansexual youth reported that they seriously considered suicide and 21% reported they attempted suicide in the past year.
  • 66% of pansexual youth reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and 79% reported experiencing symptoms of depression.
  • 36% of pansexual youth reported that they have been physically threatened or harmed due to their sexual orientation.
  • 69% of pansexual youth reported that they had experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

The Project MORE Foundation, a leading nonprofit service and support provider to the Northern California Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ+) and Ally community explains what it means to be Pansexual:

One common misconception that even members of the LGBTQ+ community have is that pansexuality and bisexuality are the same. Bisexuality can loosely be defined as attraction to more than one gender, but many define it with the more narrow definition of attraction to both genders, i.e,: men and women.

Pansexuality differs in that it includes sexual attraction inclusive of ALL gender identities, which means that people can also be drawn to those who are gender fluid or genderqueer. It is similar for people who are panromantic. When a person identifies as panromantic, it means that they can feel romantically towards anyone of any gender identity. 

When people come out as pansexual, headlines often emphasize that it’s different than being bi, and while that’s true, somebody who is bi may also identify as pan and vice versa. The bisexuality umbrella term includes those who feel attracted to two or more gender identities. Pansexuality refers to people who feel sexual attraction to any gender identity, but because their preference includes two or more genders, they could also consider themself bi. Being pan doesn’t mean that a person is going to be attracted towards everyone, but simply that gender identity doesn’t play a role in that attraction. 

There are many people who identify as pansexual or panromantic, such as Jazz Jennings, the famous 20-something LGBTQ+ rights advocate who came out as trans as a child. Authors Dana Mele and Caitlin Ricci identify as panromantic. Miley Cyrus, Janelle Monáe, and Brendon Urie are also among famous celebrities who identify as pansexual. 

It is quite common that people who are pansexual go on a journey of self-discovery to figure out their true sexuality. Some, like Bella Thorne, initially identified as bisexual, but then grew to realize that gender plays little to no role in their attraction, so her definition of her sexuality changed to reflect that. 

Miley Cyrus, who came out in 2015 as pansexual, is among one of those who went down the path to self-discovery when it came to her sexuality. In an interview with Variety, she said that an interaction with a non-binary individual helped her understand that she felt attraction towards them regardless of how they expressed their gender. In that moment, she didn’t feel gay, straight, or bi, because she wasn’t.

Because definitions can be held loosely, one of the most important takeaways is that how a person identifies their sexual or romantic attraction can differ from one day to the next, but celebrating and respecting a person for who they are is what matters most. Days like Pansexuality and Panromantic Visibility Day are perfect for educating people about the various ways people experience sexual and romantic attraction.

About the 2022 National Survey

This survey is one of the largest and only surveys of its kind, representing the experiences of nearly 34,000 LGBTQ young people ages 13-24 across the U.S. It’s also one of the most diverse surveys of LGBTQ youth ever conducted – with 45% of respondents being youth of color and 48% being trans or nonbinary.

Lastly, The Trevor Project has a guide, “How to Support Bisexual Youth: Ways to Care for Bisexual, Pansexual, Fluid, and Queer Youth Who are Attracted to More than One Gender” that offers best practices for those looking to support the youth who are attracted to more than one gender in their lives.

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Sports

Mavericks’ Reggie Bullock, finalist for NBA award for LGBTQ+ advocacy

The NBA announced this week the guard-forward is one of the finalists for its 2022 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award

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Reggie Bullock (Dallas Mavericks/YouTube)

DALLAS – While San Francisco is celebrating the Golden State Warriors’ huge Wednesday night Game 1 victory over the Mavericks in the NBA Western Conference Finals, LGBTQ groups in Dallas are cheering on Dallas’s Reggie Bullock for his work off the court. 

The NBA announced this week the guard-forward is one of the finalists for its 2022 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award, which honors players who have made strides in fighting for social justice and advocating for equality.

Other finalists include the Milwaukee Bucks’s Jrue Holiday, the Memphis Grizzlies’s Jaren Jackson Jr., the Minnesota Timberwolves’s Karl-Anthony Towns and the Toronto Raptors’s Fred VanVleet.

The NBA said Bullock’s push for LGBTQ equity stems from the 2014 murder of his sister, Mia Henderson, a transgender woman.

“Bullock has focused on acceptance of all people by working to create truly inclusive communities through neighborhood engagement and national efforts around the LGBTQ movement, including participating in the NYC Pride March, the GLAAD Media Awards, and NBA events for LGBTQ youth and allies,” according to an NBA news release. “Most recently, as part of the Mavs Take ACTION! initiative, Bullock participated in a courageous conversation as part of the HUDDLE series to uplift the trans community, amplify community organizations who are working to support and protect LGBTQ individuals, and create opportunities for allyship.”

Since joining the Mavs a year ago, Bullock, 31, has teamed-up with groups that include Abounding Prosperity, Dallas Southern Pride, House of Rebirth, The Black-Tie Dinner, the Resource Center, as well as the Muhlaysia Booker Foundation. That organization was founded in memory of a trans woman murdered in Dallas.

On this year’s International Day of Trans Visibility, March 31, Bullock joined the founder of the Muhlashia Booker Foundation, Stephanie Houston, and Leslie McMurray, Transgender Education & Advocacy Associate for a session titled, Voices Unheard, Uplifting Trans Perspectives. 

He shared memories of his sister Mia and how her murder motivated him to use his platform as an NBA player to fight for equal rights and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community.

Bullock has also started his own charitable organization, RemarkaBULL, which provides housing and support to members of the LGBTQ+ community in need. Through RemarkaBULL, Bullock wrote an open letter to the NCAA protesting Idaho’s anti-trans student-athlete House Bill 500, which was signed into law by Gov. Brad Little in March of 2020. The law is on hold pending a review by a federal court.

The winner of the Social Justice Award will be announced during the Western Conference Finals, now underway. The winner receives $100,000 donated to the charity of their choice, and the other finalists receive $25,000 donations for their organizations. Bullock’s charity of choice is Kinston Teens, which empowers young people to engage in activism and community development.

In Wednesday night’s Western Conference Final game 1, Bullock scored 12 points, shooting 3/10 3-pt and 3 rebounds in the Mavericks’ 87-112 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Game 2 is set to tip off Friday at 9 p.m. ET, Golden State leads 1-0.

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Television

New trailer gives first glimpse into new ‘Queer as Folk’

The highly-anticipated return looks poised to make some welcome improvements as it reinvents the beloved series for a new era

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Courtesy of PEACOCK

HOLLYWOOD – Depending on who you ask, the soon-to-be-dropped reimagining of “Queer as Folk” could well be the biggest LGBTQ television event – or the biggest mistake – of the year.

The groundbreaking original British version of the series, created and written by Russell T. Davies in 1999 (decades before his recent triumph with “It’s A Sin” introduced him to a new generation of queer viewers), has already had an American adaptation in 2000, and each of these installments has its own legion of fans – many of whom have expressed their qualms (to put it mildly) over the entire idea of a new reboot.

That, however, hasn’t stopped Davies from joining forces with writer/director/creator Stephen Dunn (“Closet Monster”) to executive produce one for Peacock. 

Shade from old-school fans aside, the highly-anticipated return of the franchise looks poised to make some welcome improvements as it reinvents the beloved series for a new era. This time, the story promises to deliver a much more diverse assortment of characters than the group of predominantly white gay men featured by its predecessors, with a story centered on a group of LGBTQ friends in New Orleans as their lives are transformed in the aftermath of a recent tragedy.

The new iteration also scores points by employing queer actors to portray all its queer roles – resulting in an impressive lineup of names on its cast list including Ryan O’Connell (“Special”), Johnny Sibilly (“Pose”), Devin Way (“Grey’s Anatomy’), Jesse James Keitel (“Alex Strangelove”), Fin Argus, Candace Grave, Benito Skinner, and Juliette Lewis, and even Kim Cattrall as a “martini-soaked, high society Southern debutante with trailer park roots.” 

Of his reason for getting on board a new adaptation of his show, Davies says, “I’m very proud of what we achieved in 1999, but in queer years, that was a millennium ago! As a community, we’ve radicalized, explored, opened up, and found new worlds – with new enemies and new allies – and there was so much to be said.

Stephen pitched a brand new version of ‘Queer as Folk’ with so much imagination, insight, and crucially, joy, that I simply couldn’t resist. I thought it was about time the title belonged to a whole new generation. The 2022 show is more diverse, more wild, more free, more angry – everything a queer show should be.”

As for Dunn, he explains, “I wanted to create a new groundbreaking version of this show for this moment. Our new ‘Queer as Folk’ is set in New Orleans — one of the most unique queer communities in North America – and I am immensely proud that the new series is comprised of an electric ensemble of fresh characters that mirror the modern global audience.

If there’s one person who is able to see ‘Queer as Folk’ and feel less alone, or who now feels more supported and seen, our job is done. In the true spirit of the original, our show doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of our community, but above all else, the series is about people who live vibrant, vital, unapologetically queer lives.” 

Jacklyn Moore, who co-wrote the new series with Dunn and Executive Produced alongside him and Davies, adds, “I believe deeply in the power of storytelling to make people feel seen, but all too often I feel as though queer and trans representation in art is limited to extremes. We are either shown as saintly heroes bravely surviving a bigoted society or two-dimensional queer-coded villains that feel airdropped in from some previous era. With ‘Queer as Folk,’ we aimed to depict queer characters who live in the messy middle. People who are complicated. Who are funny and caring and flawed and sometimes selfish, but still worthy of love. Still worthy of narrative. As a trans woman, I’m excited to take steps to move past telling stories that seem to just be arguing for our basic humanity. My hope is that Queer as Folk is one such step.”

We’re sure we speak for the rest of the eagerly-waiting fans when we say that we all hope that, too. We can all find out together when Peacock begins streaming the new “Queer as Folk” on June 9.

Queer as Folk | Official Trailer | Peacock Original

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